Joe Fortes, Vancouver

Located half a block off the main Robson Street shopping district in Downtown Vancouver, Joe Fortes has been serving up fresh seafood to Vancouver residents and visitors for as long as I can remember. It’s a Vancouver institution and it’s where we decided to take my dad for his birthday this past weekend.

We had some gift cards to use and, doing a little bit of research online, we learned that Joe Fortes is surprisingly kid-friendly. There’s a children’s menu, for instance, as well as high chairs and booster seats. It’s also really helpful that the handicap washroom on the lower level also has a baby change table, a relative rarity among restaurants of this type in the city.

Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House, Vancouver
Fresh Shucked Oysters
Kusshi (Baynes Sound), Joe’s Gold (Read Island), Satori (Denman Island)

No visit to Joe Fortes would be complete without indulging in some raw oysters. The varieties of oysters available at Joe Fortes change periodically, so you will need to ask your server about what they have. The last time we were here, my favorite was the Malpeque from PEI. Those weren’t available, so we opted for three varieties of more local oysters instead.

Of the three depicted, my favorite was definitely the Kusshi (along the left side of the plate. They were beautifully light, delicate and fresh. Prices ranged from $2.60 to $3.60 per oyster, though you can take advantage of the “buck-a-shuck” special during the daily Happy Hour. This is similar to what you’d find at Merchant’s Oyster Bar, for instance.

Joe Fortes, Vancouver
Crisp Calamari
Chiles, sun-dried tomato aioli

My mom loves calamari and it’s an appetizer that we inevitably order just about anywhere we go. The batter on the fried squid here had just enough crunch to it. I just wish the portion size was larger.

Joe Fortes, Vancouver
Albacore Tuna Tartare
Wakame salad, ponzu, egg yolk, pine nuts, taro root chips

When you order tuna tartare at most other places, you get fish that is more of a pink color. The Joe Fortes version is decidedly paler. I liked the thin and delicate taro chips as an alternative to a more traditional cracker. The tuna itself could have used a little more seasoning as the ponzu felt a little lacking.

Joe Fortes, Vancouver
Joe’s Fresh Seafood Cioppino
Prawns, scallops, crab, calamari, clams, mussels, fresh fish

Perhaps one of the better values on the menu, the cioppino comes loaded with quite a bit of seafood. The variety and flavors are good, though more broth would have been appreciated.

Joe Fortes, Vancouver
Peppercorn Ahi Tuna
Grilled rare, brandied peppercorn sauce, potato rosti, market vegetables

For my main course, I opted for one of my personal favorites. I really enjoyed the potato rosti; it was like eating some particularly savory hash browns. As far as the fish itself, it was a miss for me. There wasn’t enough of a char on the outside, the flesh wasn’t as “smooth” as I would have liked, and the peppercorn lacked the bite I sought.

Joe Fortes, Vancouver
Blackened Swordfish
Chef’s creation of the day

From what I remember, this was supposed to have some Cajun seasoning on it. However, like the peppercorn on my ahi tuna, it wasn’t particularly pronounced. The fish was also slightly overcooked.

Joe Fortes, Vancouver
7 oz. AAA Sterling Silver Sirloin Steak
Sauteed mushrooms, classic green peppercorn sauce

Sunday through Thursday, Joe Fortes offers a special three-course prix fixe menu for $38. Not pictured are the clam chowder appetizer and the tiramisu or creme brulee dessert. Three of my dining companions went with this option. I heard neither compliments nor complaints. What I will note is that my mom is usually not one for spicy food and she did not appear to be turned off by the green peppercorn sauce.

All said, Joe Fortes wasn’t as exceptional as I had remembered it. The fresh shucked oysters were definitely the highlight of the night and I’ll likely be back for Happy Hour at some point. Perhaps my fond memories of this restaurant were from an age before Vancouver really came into its own as a “foodie” city with restaurants like Fable Kitchen, Forage and Farmer’s Apprentice.

Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House on Urbanspoon

The total bill for six (plus Adalynn) came to about $400, including drinks, tax and gratuity. Thank goodness we had some gift cards to use!